To say that I have OCD would be an overstatement, but I really, really like to keep things organized. In some cases it might seem a little extreme. For instance, I like to make sure all of the spices in my spice cabinet are organized by size of the bottle…
However, the drive to be organized proves to be very useful especially when it comes to organizing digital information, or more specifically, where all the different parts of a website are hosted.
Most people don’t know it, but there is actually a whole lot that goes into making a website work. Besides your URL and your hosting there are a few other very important parts to know about.
What is DNS? Well the long answer is DNS stands for “Domain Name System.” It’s what a browser actually looks at instead of the URL, or website address like www.mayecreate.com. Your browser takes the URL and it translates that to a physical IP address.
Sounds confusing? Don’t worry, here’s the short answer, DNS is the phone book of the internet: website URLs are the names and IP addresses are like phone numbers. When you type a URL (individuals name) into your browser, your browser looks up the IP address (phone number) of that URL (name) and then calls it for you. Once it calls that number, your browser pulls up any information available to display that it can find… or the prettiness you see when the site loads.
DNS can also be controlled by someone else besides your website hosting company. For example, you could host your website at Tranquility Internet but your domain and DNS could be through GoDaddy; the two don’t have to be one and the same. This is a very key bit of info to know: the parts can be split.
“MX” stands for “Mail Exchange.” The MX record is what tells the internet where all the emails that use your domain are hosted. For example, all of us at MayeCreate have emails with our website’s domain, like firstname.lastname@example.org. This record tells the browser what server to send email through. It’s like the address all of your physical mail gets sent to, only for your digital email.
You can have a bunch of different MX records. If there is more than one record and the first address is unavailable, then the second MX record will be used, so on and so forth. It’s like having a P.O. Box for your mail to send to if your home mail box gets sucked up by a tornado. The end result is still all the mail going to the same place, just a different route.
“A” stands for “Address.” This one isn’t too bad. This is the IP address of the server that your site is hosted on, the first part of the DNS that the browser finds when it looks up your URL in the “phone book”.
Like I said before most people don’t know that DNS, MX records, or A records are a part of a website. If you set up hosting through a company like Tranquility Internet odds are they will set it all up for you, and you will never even NEED to know. If that’s the case, that’s good, it means someone is doing their job right and taking care of everything.
But what if you move hosting? Did you make sure all of your website parts moved, too?
If you fail to keep all the parts of your DNS organized it can be catastrophic down the line, and a huge pain for your hosting/design company. Imagine if you had moved hosting two or even three times… your MX record could still be pointing to the hosting company you had 10 years ago. Before you know it, you have your DNS controlled in one place, your mail at another, and your hosting somewhere else.
It makes my head hurt just thinking about it…
I would always recommend making sure that everything involved with your website hosting is taken care of by one person or company. It is okay if all the parts are taken care of by separate people, just keep a running tab of who manages what to save yourself strife in the long run should you need to move your website.
I need to go organize my spice cabinet now…
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